Sunday, February 24
Music played a critical role throughout the Civil War, providing both marching orders and a relief from the tensions of war life. Take a commemorative tour of the sounds of the 1860’s and enjoy authentic cuisine of the period! Come hear military music, music from the underground Railroad, parlor music with its Irish, Scottish and German roots, plus classical and religious favorites from the time. Experience in-depth workshops highlighting the historical importance of the music. Prices below reflect discounts for advance purchase by phone at 387-6078 ext.0. Advance tickets must be purchased by Feb 15.
Time:3:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Location:South County Library
Address:6303 Merriman Road
Roanoke, VA 24018
Email: Event Coordinator – email@example.com
Cost: Food and event tickets are $20 for ages 13 and older, $15 for ages 5-12.
Under 5 are free
In this article from the Winter 2013 edition of Recreation Family Fun Guide, we take a look at the social side of civil war life in the Roanoke Valley. It’s a great read in advance of our February 24 event “Civil War Music Brought to Life,” at the South County Library.
Most people don’t think of the Roanoke Valley as playing a significant role in the Civil War. There are very few tourist attractions or museums in this corner of the Commonwealth drawing attention to historic battles or landmarks. Nevertheless, this area had an important part to play, as a supplier of staple items such as wheat, corn, wool and cloth.
According to historian Dr. Deedie Kagey, Roanoke was largely a farming community during the 1860’s, consisting of the descendants of German immigrants who had traveled Southward through the Shenandoah Valley and settled here after completing indentured service in Pennsylvania. Compared to other parts of the south, the Roanoke Valley had very few slaves, and its residents were more divided in their sympathies to the North or South.
“Their faith, work ethic and their belief in the family was their strength.” says Kagey. “If you look at letters, most of the time everything was connected whether the time was right to grow wheat or other crops.” Furthermore, Kagey notes, this region may have seen fewer of its sons go off to fight as a result of the two colleges here. Both Roanoke College and Hollins remained open during the duration of the war, often resorting to barter to keep operating.
Residents here still underwent tremendous hardships during the war. Just like most of the South, they were in a mode of struggling to survive. With most doctors serving on the war front, medical care was also hard to find. Women and children took on a greater role as farmers and merchants.
With so much to take care of on the home front, recreation time became limited. Dr. Kagey says that years ago she interviewed a 97 year old woman who had lived near the Botetourt and Bedford County line since childhood. She asked what the woman did for fun, and the woman replied “We didn’t have time for fun. We had chores until we went to school, came home, ate supper and worked until bedtime.”
While that may have been a bit of an exaggeration, leisure time was certainly at a premium. Rather than participating in sports leagues or summer camps, children would often turn their daily chores into games. For example, it was the child’s duty to prepare wool for spinning by loading it in baskets filled with river water and stomping the fibers down so they were pliable.
Music was also a big part of life during the war. Kagey notes, “They did a lot of sing-songs, especially as they were working, or quilting, or churning butter. Since this was a heavily wooded area, there were some musical instruments, mostly handmade, like the lute, mandolin or fife.” Not only was the Roanoke Valley rich in culture from immigrant settlers, it was also a crossroads of two major routes, several natural springs, and the Virginia/Tennessee Railroad, which brought new economic life to the area in 1852. As a result, this area, perhaps more than most in Southwest Virginia, became a cultural mixing bowl.
You can learn more about the way this blending of cultures influenced music in our area on Sunday, February 24 at the South County Library. Roanoke County Parks, Recreation and Tourism is pleased to present “Civil War Music Brought to Life,” a commemorative tour of the sounds and cuisine of the time.
It wasn’t until the later years of the war that the Roanoke Valley saw the blood of skirmishes. Two incursions in 1863 and 1864 targeted the Confederacy’s supply lines here, underscoring the importance of the region as a breadbasket for General Lee’s tattered forces. By the end of the war, the communities here were struggling to survive. Union troops passing through would steal food, horses, wagons and even clothing as they passed. The economy was in shambles, with a large amount of municipal debt going to support the wounded and survivors of fallen soldiers.
Within a few years, however, the community bounced back thanks to the linkage of three new railroads in the area. Perhaps some of the resilience of the area also came from its people, who overcame adversity through a strong faith and a diverse society.
Information from the Roanoke County Website